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Author Topic: FlightAware Pro Stick  (Read 39564 times)

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Offline Anmer

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FlightAware Pro Stick
« on: March 31, 2016, 02:58:08 PM »
A few days ago, FlightAware announced it's new Pro Stick, a low cost DVB-T SDR receiver with built-in amplifier.

Claimed to be the first of its kind, offering significant range improvement over traditional USB SDR receivers and less expensive at US $16.95.

The Pro Stick has an SMA connector for use with most ADS-B antennae.

https://flightaware.com/adsb/prostick/

FlightAware says it developed the Pro Stick to provide maximum ADS-B performance when used with its free PiAware software or any other device that works with a USB RTLSDR.  FlightAware is selling the Pro Stick at cost with no added profit margin.  Clearly it hopes to encourage more PiAware usage and achieve greater ADS-B and MLAT coverage.

The Pro Stick will be available through Amazon in a number of areas, including Europe.  I think the initial supply has already sold out.  They're also available on eBay but with shipping charges from the USA.

Some useful info on the FlightAware forum:

http://discussions.flightaware.com/ads-b-flight-tracking-f21/flightaware-pro-stick-revolutionary-usb-ads-b-mlat-receiver-t36958.html

I've been fortunate to obtain a small quantity of Pro Sticks for prizes in a forthcoming Radarspotting competition, details to follow.

In the meantime I will be running comparative tests against my current DVB-T SDR + FlightAware filter and will share the results here in a few days time.

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Offline Anmer

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2016, 06:02:59 PM »
About 2 hours ago I swapped my current DVB-T SDR for the Pro Stick.  Both are connected to the FlightAware ADS-B 1090MHz Band-pass SMA Filter, available from Amazon UK for GBP 15.73.  And both fed from an external antenna.

I immediately noticed that my aircraft count and range had increased significantly, as too did the PiAware message count.

I also noticed that the Pro Stick is picking up aircraft flying into my area at least 20 seconds or earlier than they appear on BaseStation.  My BaseStation is running off my SBS-3 using a different external antenna with masthead preamp.

I will publish detailed comparisons when I've gathered at least 48 hours data from the Pro Stick.

And watch out for our upcoming competition.  We have 5 Pro Sticks with filters as prizes.

But for just GBP £13,36 on Amazon, this has to be one of the best value DVB-T "dongle" available.

Judging by the Reviews on Amazon, others agree:

Verified Purchase

I am not normally one to write reviews, but this thing is quite amazing. Instantly had an increase in range and in number of positions per second. Messages per second nearly doubled, and the range increased anywhere from 10-30% (depending on the direction). Using a third party high gain antenna, the flightaware filter, (which I installed about a month ago, and also provided about a 10-15% boost), and about 50 feet of LMR 400 cable. Very impressed so far, just installed, so these are preliminary results, but the early results are looking promising. Furthest distance seen in the first hour of operation was 240 miles (but not consistently), with the average consistent distance being about 190 miles!

Verified Purchase

It may not have a TXCO (Temperature Compensated Crystal Oscillator), but out of the box this is hands down the best USB dongle for ADS-B I've tried, which include the RTL-SDR.com model, and the NooElec model. I was running unamplified prior to installation, so I suspect that's where the biggest gains are, but instead of worrying about how to power an amplifier, you get one built in here. Truly a fantastic and cheap(!) piece of hardware for any aviation transponder enthusiast.

For my personal experience, messages from 200NM+ increased by 15-20x, 160-200NM increased by 5x, and 120-160NM increased by 2.5x. My maximum range also increased from 240NM to 270NM.

Small edit not worth enough to drop a star... The crystal appears to be less stable with temperature swings than even the NooElec dongle. With a 40 degree overnight temperature swing, the offset shifted approximately 6PPM, whereas the NooElec would swing no more than 2PPM.
Small edit... not enough to drop a star, but definitely worth noting. The oscillator appears to be less stable than the NooElec model. We experienced lower than usual overnight lows last night, and the offset shifted approximately 5PPM, whereas the NooElec dongle would fluctuate <2PPM overnight, and the RTL-SDR.com dongle would fluctuate <0.5PPM no matter what temperature it was operating in.

Verified Purchase

I've used the standard nooelec, the TXCO nooelec, and the RTL-SDR dongles in my rig, and this one has beaten them all hands down. With a sub-ideal setup in NYC i am able to track aircraft from Boston to DC.

It's just the best dongle around for it's intended use, and an amazing value for its price point. I'm very impressed with it.

Verified Purchase

I've used other USB SDR dongles and added amps but FlightAware's built in amp is super simple and provides better results than I've had with any other setup. I doubled my range over dongles without an amp.

Verified Purchase

I received this yesterday and swapped in in place of the un-amped SDR that I had been using. I also changed out the feed line to regular coax in stead of running a long USB like I had been to keep the SDR close to the antenna. Without any other adjustments I turned the server back on, and instantly noticed a difference. Old radio was seeing just 6 ADS-B targets and 8 Mode-S. Keep in mind the antenna is just in the attic for now until I can mount it outside. New radio: 30+ ADS-B, and 20+ Mode-S, and distance increased by almost double for consistent hits. The difference is truly incredible.
I did notice installing it that with the feed point being SMA and not having a swivel connection like the older ones there is a lot of weight on the end of the device. I plan to buy a few more for a project and will be buying short USB headers as well to allow flexibility and take the strain off the built-in USB connector. I am impressed with this little device though.
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Offline Bethsalem

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2016, 10:28:00 AM »
Mike, thanks for this "pre-review". It certainly looks promising. If it proves to be as good as it seems then you have to wonder about the future of the high-end receivers such as the Radarcape and SBS-3.

Offline Anmer

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2016, 11:52:41 AM »
If it proves to be as good as it seems then you have to wonder about the future of the high-end receivers such as the Radarcape and SBS-3.
I'm sure there are many who will still invest in the specialist Mode-S receivers, such as the SBS-3, RadarCape and, if it comes to market, the Planefinder receiver.  Mind you, one might class the Pro Stick as a specialist receiver with the built-in amp.

Here are some more indicators of my improved performance.  SBSPlotter comparing my old DVB-T and the Pro Stick on the right.  And my FlightAware hourly reports showing the increase after I changed to the Pro Stick.

I think the main improvement is from the built-in amp  If you already have an amp, you may not see any improvement over your existing DVB-T setup.

« Last Edit: May 22, 2016, 09:00:47 AM by Anmer »
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Offline IanH

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2016, 12:12:48 PM »
FlightAware Pro Stick sold out on Amazon UK - search doesn't find anything.

Just as well I bought one yesterday while there were still 6 left  ;D


Offline Anmer

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2016, 12:16:34 PM »
Just as well I bought one yesterday while there were still 6 left  ;D

Luckily I have five here (with filters) for the upcoming competition  :)

Please let us know how it performs for you Ian.
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Offline IanH

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2016, 12:56:48 PM »
Bought a filter as well. Should be here mid week

And seems Shaky has bought at least one Pro stick.

Offline Anmer

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2016, 09:15:00 AM »
Some more comparisons of the new Pro Stick and my original DVB-T SDR, both of which were used with a FlightAware filter.

Notice the scale change for some charts, highlighted in yellow.  I switched to the Pro Stick on Friday 1st April 2016.  I've marked this with a red dotted line.
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Offline Anmer

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2016, 08:39:06 PM »
Amazon UK has Pro Sticks back in stock:

http://discussions.flightaware.com/post191520.html#p191520

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Offline IanH

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Offline Nigel

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2016, 11:28:16 PM »
For someone with very little technical knowledge about these things...does the Pro Stick work simply plugged into a PC and connected to an antenna? Does it come with appropriate data collection and display software or can it be used to feed data into PlanePlotter for example?

Many thanks

Nigel

Offline Anmer

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2016, 07:55:19 AM »
does the Pro Stick work simply plugged into a PC and connected to an antenna? Does it come with appropriate data collection and display software or can it be used to feed data into PlanePlotter for example?

The Pro Stick is, basically, a DVB-T SDR which can receive digital transmissions including Mode-S aircraft messages on 1090 MHz (and UAT on 978 MHz).  These SDR receivers are sometimes referred to as "dongles" and David Taylor has written a useful Guide, albeit directed towards PlanePlotter users:

http://planeplotter.pbworks.com/w/page/62409382/RTL1090

The Pro Stick doesn't ship with any software and can be used in the same way as any other DVB-T SDR.  Nor does it ship with an antenna or cables.  The DVB-T SDR antennae are not too good for Mode-S message reception.

FlightAware designed the Pro Stick to optimise Mode-S performance using a built-in amplifier.

Specialist software is needed to make use of these messages which can be run either on a PC or a small format device such as the Raspberry Pi (RPi).  FlightAware has free, fully configured software for the RPi called PiAware which includes the rudimentary DUMP1090, browser displayed aircraft tracking.  PiAware also outputs decoded data on various ports which can be used to run PlanePLotter and other, Mode-S applications such as VRS.

Uniquely, PiAware outputs all locally derived MLAT plots.  i.e. those achieved by your receiver's messages used in conjunction with other, synchronised PiAware data feeds.  Unlike other MLAT solutions, PiAware doesn't block or hide any MLAT flights.

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Offline Triple7

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2016, 08:09:34 AM »
May I suggest that perhaps a better link is to the DUMP1090 for windows section in the PP Wiki rather than RTL1090.

http://planeplotter.pbworks.com/w/page/79995023/Dump1090

Tim
SBS-1eR, FA ProStick + 1090 filter

Offline Anmer

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2016, 08:24:08 AM »
May I suggest that perhaps a better link is to the DUMP1090 for windows section in the PP Wiki rather than RTL1090.

Thanks Tim.

I think both links have useful, background information.  And, unless I'm mistaken, RTL1090 is still available?
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Offline Triple7

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Re: FlightAware Pro Stick
« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2016, 09:42:05 AM »
Yes as far as I am aware RTL1090 is still available. My post was really to try and be consistent as the RPi set up only uses Dump1090 as far as I know.

Tim
SBS-1eR, FA ProStick + 1090 filter